My typist and I recently fell out after a profitable and amicable 7 year relationship. Was this because of irreconcilable differences? No. It was because of niceness.
My typist had a grandson coming to stay over the summer, just as I asked her to proofread DANNY 3/1. She didn’t want to do this because her grandson is 17 years old and she knew she would never be able to hide a book like DANNY from him. She was afraid he would see it on her computer and, assumably, discover his granny was a pervert. Or a hypocrite.
Instead of telling me she couldn’t do the proofreading, or finding a way to hide the book from her grandson, she wrote to me and told me categorically “yes, to the work”. Unfortunately, she then followed this up by telling me she was going password lock it because “I don’t want him to see reading material like that on MY computer”. Block capitals hers.
I wrote back to her and said I found this kind of comment hurtful and offensive, and that if she wanted to censor her grandson’s reading material she should just do it and not share her attitudes with me.
She wrote back to me and blamed me for not liking password locked documents (true; they cause problems in formatting during printing). She then said she was sick and stressed – something that had not been mentioned before – and now she couldn’t do the work.
In the course of three e-mails we had gone from “Yes, to the work” to “I no longer want to do this work”. Huffing was being huffed and sulking was being sulked. And it was all my fault.
I wrote back and told her I assumed she no longer wanted to work for me, now or in the future, and thanked her for all her hard work over the years. I even, foolishly, signed it “Love, Chancery”. Never sign an e-mail to an employee “Love” anything.
Very surprisingly, she sent me another e-mail, a terse one-liner telling me she “wouldn’t say never, just not at present”. With no love. And notably no apology. She had never made an apology, because, of course, it was all my fault for putting her in a bind like this, offering her work when it was inconvenient.
The e-mail she got back was long enough to constitute a work of non-fiction. It finished with the words “You are contemptible”
But really the whole ‘fight’ – if it can be graced with such a word, since no-one raised their voice till the bitter end – was due to niceness.
She was far too nice to tell me that she didn’t want to type my filthy book in her grandson’s presence. Just as she was too nice to tell her grandson that she had been typing my filthy books for seven years. Lying to both of us was easier.
When I was not nice and told her she hurt my feelings, she blamed me for being far too controlling in not wanting my books password locked. And in a backhand way she was right. For, in actual fact, when she first sent the e-mail telling me she was going to password lock the document, I should have reminded her, forcefully, she was going to do nothing of the kind – if she wanted to continue working for me. Instead, I was nice and said only that she’d hurt me, expecting her to be apologetic and placatory.
When, instead, she blamed me for her position, and suddenly announced she was too stressed and sick, she was lying once again, when she should havebitten the bullet and told me it was password locking or nothing. And when I answered her, I didn’t just say “Fine, gotta let you go” I tried to end our relationship nicely and thanked her for all her work.
This may seem a good thing, but in actuality I showered her with praise every single time she worked for me. I told her she was great, reassured her; in short, convinced her she was invaluable and irreplaceable, which she wasn’t. When we went ‘bankrupt’, I paid her less to do work on two books, and apologised to her profusely and repeatedly, even although I was paying her money we couldn’t spare; and even although she had earned thousands of pounds from me during the years before. I believe this led to her feeling it was okay to tell me what she was going to do, and led to her thinking she could dictate terms. Hence her final e-mail, trying to have her cake and eat it too.
That last e-mail looks (is?) profoundly stupid, in retrospect, but why shouldn’t she think she can tell me she’ll maybe work for me some time in the future, if she feels like it? I had thanked her for being a bad employee. I had convinced her over many years that she could do no wrong. Niceness came back and bit me in the ass. Like it bit her, for that matter.
Niceness is a female affliction and it does us no good whatsoever. For any reason, at any time. Nice girls lose their typists, and their typists lose their first rate employers. Learn from this. Because one of us should, and I certainly didn’t.
Buy DANNY by Chancery Stone. She is poor and has no typist. But feels curiously free……..